F1: Monaco Grand Prix liveblog

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSunday, May 24th, 2009

 
 

Well, Jense looks to have it in the bag after his superb qualifying yesterday. But – hang on a minute – who’s that on the front row next to him?

This site’s had a motto for so many years now that it’s in danger of becoming a cliché – never take your eyes off Kimi Raikkonen. Especially since the Iceman has KERS and Button doesn’t.

However those in the know suggest that it’s not going to help him much, with the three seconds it takes the damned contrivance to kick in launching the competitors all the way to Ste Devote and a sharp right turn.

But, if Raikkonen’s checked that pocket of the shirt going in the wash, and finally worked out where he left his motivation, he’ll be an absolute menace.

However that could yet prove to be a pretty big if.

So, what else is happening? Barrichello and Vettel, filling out the second row, may both feel they have something to prove. Massa needs to regain his balance after a dodgy accident in qualifying and Rosberg is in a good place to finally show some form. Webber and Kovalainen are looking handy on row four.

After that, the rest of the field starting with Fernando Alonso can probably forget it, even if the safety car does come out early on. Probably – after all, this is Monaco. Who knows what will happen?

We’ll be here following every minute with our regular liveblog. Stick with us – and don’t forget to keep hitting refresh to make sure you’re looking at the latest – one day we’ll get that Java widget sorted, but not yet.

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Post-race: Ross Brawn is almost too happy to speak – in that slightly weepy. “I’m so happy” kind of way. He says: “We were in trouble at one stage in the first stint and the guys did a great job to recover it.” He can no longer deny that Button is a potential champion: “I’m just lost for words, because he is exceeding everything I though possible.” And this from a man who worked for 15 years with Michael Schumacher. Nevertheless it was canny strategy that got those horrible tyres out of the way at the beginning.

Hamilton seems a lot more calm and philosophical than he has often recently. He says his goal was “just to get to the end of the fight.” He says: “I’ll be back next year to try and win.” Good lad – it looks like he’s turned a corner of some sort.

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Podium: Button, that super-fit triathlete, is sprinting round the track on foot, doing a lap of honour and waving to the crowds. Is this some essential part of his London Triathlon training? Not draped in a Union Flag, regrettably, since that would have kept us in pictures for the next decade.

Dad John is still sticking with his lucky outfit, it appears. Kimi Raikkonen, in contrast, has a cold, dead, scary stare and looks like a life-sized version of his own action figure. We will now stick our necks out and predict: Massa and Alonso for Ferrari in 2010. And that will be a dangerous pairing.

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Lap 78: Button starts his last lap. Top eight will be Button, Barrichello, Raikkonen, Massa, Webber, Rosberg, Alonso, Bourdais. And – would you believe it? Yellow flag on the last lap for Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima. He seldom disappoints, does he? Perhaps we can put to rest this myth that Brits are restrained: Button shouts over the radio: “Monaco! Baby! Yeah!”

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Lap 77: Button starts his penultimate lap seemingly assured of a victory.

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Lap 76: Most interesting thing at the moment is that Martin Brundle thinks the resolution to the current 2010 entry crisis will be a dive back in the direction of customer cars.

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Lap 75: Four laps left and not much sign of major upsets now, which points to another 1-2 for Brawn and Ferrari’s first podium of the season – amazing!

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Lap 73: Alonso has not always been our absolute favourite Formula One driver – but we have to admire the way he has coped with a midfield car – almost always grabs the best he can from a race. Bourdais has opened a bit of clear air up ahead of Fisi for that last point, a shame for the Force India driver.Team said to be very happy with ninth.

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Lap 72: Hamilton has woken up, overtaking Trulli for 13th and on the back of Heidfeld who appears to be running a bit slow – whether through getting out of shape on the track or because his car is a dog we can’t currently tell.

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Lap 71: Webber’s not putting in superb laps at the moment, any prospect of a challenge from him has definitely faded. Everyone seems to be concentrating on just getting round now.

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Lap 69: We’d just like to say that we miss the Gauloises banner in the tunnel, even if tobacco advertising is bad, nasty and bad.

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Lap 68: Button’s lead is 12.2 seconds. 10 laps left.

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Lap 67: Alonso pits. That was unexpected – were we not paying attention? He comes out side by side with Sutil. Alonso has to swerve to avoid the Force India driver, and Sutil has the place even though he is a lap down.

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Lap 66: Kovy’s explanation: “I lost the car in the high-speed chicane.” Well, he’s a member of a long an honorable list who have. Rosberg pits. Hamilton currently the second-fastest man on the track but absolutely unable to do anything with that.

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Lap 65: Ferrari’s pace starting to slip as their tyres start to wear. Question is, can Red Bull handle them any better? Vettel’s performance might suggest not but Webber is a wiser head.

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Lap 64: Alonson now 9.9 seconds behind Webber.

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Lap 63: Alonso catching Webber fast – he just took a second and a half out of him. He’s wobbling around the track though, suggesting he’s pushing hard for that time.

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Lap 62: Button’s lead is 16.8 seconds.

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Lap 61: Highest climber in the field at present is Bourdais in eighth. Also interesting to note how Alonso has converted a relatively unpromising start into decent points.

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Lap 59: Vettel, asked to explain himself by Lee McKenzie, becomes suddenly so densely German that he can barely be understood. Sounding like a character from Allo Allo.

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Lap 58: Button’s lead is 13.2 seconds and he looks good for a win now. Ferraris have failed to capitalise on those pitstops and Raikkonen has kept Massa behind him. Glock pits and comes out 13th, blue-flagged as he does so to let Barrichello through. That means the Ferraris are stuck behind him.

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Lap 57: Lavish TV pics of every driver on the track cutting the chicane as their tyres wear down.

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Lap 56: Massa pits and so does Webber. They must be looking forward to this final stint on super-softs. Massa comes out fourth, Rosberg is on track in fifth and Webber comes out in sixth. Order is now Button, Barrichello, Raikkonen, Massa, Rosberg, Webber, Alonso, Bourdais.

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Lap 55: Hamilton pits – and gets a new nose. What gives? Top three currently Button, Massa, Webber.

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Lap 54: Raikkonen pits, releasing Button. On go the dodgy tyres which Ferrari now need to save over 25 laps. Massa who hasn’t pitted yet, now has to do his work to steal a march on his team-mate. But he’s now stuck behind the heavy button.

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Lap 53: Oh blast, damn and buggery. Kovalainen has, in the words of the commentators, “dropped it in the swimming pool.” However he seems remarkably dry. His nose is entirely destroyed – but the camera survives and films on. A marshal seizes Kovy, who we shall charitably assume was disorientated, and stops him from wandering out into the traffic.

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Lap 52: Button’s stop was 6.8 secs. He comes out bloody close to Raikkonen, they are side by side and Raikkonen takes the lead. They are coming round to Hamilton again who has unlapped himself. Commentators say that Brawn would rather had Button out in front (hah!) and not losing time but it is not a disaster.

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Lap 51: Trulli makes his only stop. Barrichello is now in. He changes onto the better soft tyres and comes out in fifth place behind Webber. Sutil and Seabass both stop. And Button pits.

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Lap 50: Jense puts in a faster lap that is more than a second quicker than Rubinho. And Barrichello is coming in from a position where the Ferraris are horrendously close behind him.

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Lap 49: Webber 14 secs ahead of Rosberg and Kovy up behind the Williams driver and having a look.

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Lap 48: Hamilton puzzled as to how Heidfeld got ahead of him. The team’s answer: simple strategy, mate.

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Lap 46: Button is 15 seconds clear of Barrichello. Now Raikkonen is pictured disregarding which bits of tarmac are legal track and which are not. Behind them are Massa, Webber, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Bourdais (unpitted), Fisi (unpitted), Alonso, Nakajima, Trulli, Glock, Heidfeld, Hamilton, Sutil.

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Lap 45: Webber is fast because he’s at the end of his stint so rumours of his challenge on the podium may be premature. But he keeps responding with very fast laps…

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Lap 43: Speculation that because Ferrari have left the super-softs until last, Webber may be looking at a podium. One-stopper Nick Heidfeld pits and emerges 14th.

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Lap 42: Leading drivers are concentrating on putting down near-perfect laps in order to maximise their chances against each other. And at last, a bit of drama. Smedley comes on the radio to warn Massa that the FIA have been along to have a chat about his cutting bits of the track.

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Lap 41: And, as you may have noticed from the increasing brevity of the entries, it’s all got a bit processional. This masks an underlying tension as the two sets of drivers from each team threaten each other and Ferrari look for ways to get past Barrichello.

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Lap 39: Massa is still banging in fastest laps and who is he threatening but Kimi Raikkonen. Rosberg struggling valiantly at the back of the leading four to hang on to them – just about managing it.

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Lap 38: Getting into the start of the window for the one-stoppers pitting now.

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Lap 37: Hamilton is blue-flagged and lets Button through.

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Lap 36: And finally – Nakajima pits. This has been a service announcement for all you Williams fans out there.

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Lap 35: Brundle muses that Massa might swap being on the edge for being over the edge if he’s not careful. Rob Smedley has been on the radio telling him to keep as many of his tyres as possible actually on the track at Swimming Pool.

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Lap 34: Massa has just done a 1:15.7 – quickest lap of the race so far. Button’s lead down to 14.7 seconds.

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Lap 33: Bourdais and Fisichella touted as knocking on the door of the points – if someone in front of them makes a mess of things.

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Lap 32: Barrichello has been steadily taking time out of Button’s lead. The Ferraris are third and fourth and presumably still able to remember how to cope with the thin air at those heights. Kimi being told to go faster if he wants to take Barrichello without losing the place to Massa.

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Lap 31: Kubica pictured parked in the garage. No particular reason given other than the unbearable unreliability of the BMW. Commentators eagerly pointing out the contrast for him with last year and also with Hamilton – “Fifteenth and no-one to play with.”

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Lap 29: Alonso pits, as Barrichello continues to knock lumps out of Button’s lead. Mind you, he has some work to do. It’s a big lead. Alonso rejoins in 11th – behind Fisi. Nakajima is the highest car not to have stopped – a lot of one-stoppers towards the back of the field.

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Lap 28: Seabass has got himself up to 10th, which should be good for at least ninth and a look at points, given that the accident-prone Kazuki Nakajima is one of the cars in front of him.

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Lap 27: Legard keeps going with his “Jenson Button, he’s out in front” catchphrase. Good that Jense is giving him the opportunity, we suppose.

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Lap 26: Alonso having a look at Kimi Raikkonen. but not getting anywhere. Plus, he needs to pit.

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Lap 24: Button is sitting pretty at the front, putting in nice fast laps and being roughly matched by Barrichello. The two of them are slightly faster than Raikkonen.

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Lap 23: Webber pits and comes out between Massa and Rosberg in sixth. That’s the second driver who has managed to jump Rosberg in the pitstops.

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Lap 22: Kovalainen comes in for his first stop and comes out between the two Williams. He’s now in eighth.

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Lap 21: He comes out remarkably close to team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the two of them split by the unpitted Alonso. He has, in effect, jumped Rosberg.

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Lap 20: Button is actually managing to open up a little bit of a lead. Massa pits from second place.

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Lap 19: Button back in the lead after Rosberg pits. But Massa is giving him a hard time. Rosberg comes out side by side with Alonso and the Spaniard takes the place. Those two are seventh and eighth.Top eight is Button, Massa, Kovalainen, Webber, Barrichello, Raikkonen, Alonso and Rosberg. Then Nakajima, Bourdais, Fisi, Heidfeld, Trulli, Glock, Kubica, Hamilton, Sutil. This is with large numbers of people still to pit.

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Lap 18: Button comes out in second place between Rosberg and Massa. Kovalainen behind them. Most people still to pit, of course.

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Lap 17: Vettel in the barrier at Ste Devote, having lost it under braking. The Brawn mechanics out and Barrichello comes in first which, according to Brundle, is the correct strategic call to contain Raikkonen. Meanwhile Vettel’s car is being winched off the track and it’s an absolute wreck. Three retirements so far. Button pits from the lead.

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Lap 16: Raikkonen has pitted – a standard running-down of fuel. Harder compound goes on – these will be lethal, we think. He comes out seventh ahead of Alonso.

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Lap 15: Massa, Rosberg and Kovalainen all catching the Ferrari-Brawn axis at the front. These tyres are going to be pivotal.

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Lap 14: The Brawns are being reeled in as a result of their tyre strategy. They need to pit and get off those bloody tyres as soon as they damn well can. Smedley on the radio claiming Massa is a second or two faster than the Brawns.

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Lap 13: Piquet being wheeled into his garage. Not his fault this time. Raikkonen right on the back of Barrichello as the Brazilian’s tyres fall off.

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Lap 12: Prior to Hamilton’s pit stop he seems to have made contact with Nick Heidfeld. Button is about to lap Hamilton. Brundle: “Those marshals at Ste Devote are well used to clearing cars away. ”

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Lap 11: Leaders doing 1m17s, the rest doing 1m21s. Whoa! Rosberg, Massa and Kovalainen have all past Vettel. Team-mate Webber now behind him, will he go through? Vettel pits, perhaps no surprise. A Renault and a Toro Rosso have come to grief. Buemi’s out, Piquet gets away again. Hamilton pits. This totally Buemi’s fault – he gave the Brazilian a mighty shunt.

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Lap 10: Rosberg looks again, and again, but can’t pick off Vettel. Barrichello being instructed to look after his tyres.

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Lap 9: Vettel’s causing a huge traffic jam and it seems to be because his rear tyres have gone off. Is this connected with their new diffuser? Vettel, in effect, winning it for the Brawns.

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Lap 8: Button’s lead two and a half seconds. Raikkonen closing in on Barrichello. Brundle: “I’m just massively impressed that Massa and Vettel didn’t connect.” Massa has proved that KERS is no use coming out of the tunnel.

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Lap 7: Ferraris running at the same sort of speed at the Brawns which suggests the tyres might be going off. Massa has a go at Vettel and makes it stick by cutting the chicane. In giving the place back he has to concede a place to Rosberg. Now he’s on Rosberg’s car ansd threatening the young Williams driver.

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Lap 6: Massa looks at Vettel, leading only to sharp braking from the Ferrari driver. Rosberg arrives behind him, but no damage done.

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Lap 5: Ross Brawn has said: “There are no team orders, the only thing I ask is that they don’t take each other off.”

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Lap 4: The Brawns are running away with it at the moment – but are on the tyre that will fade more quickly, which is a potential vulnerability.

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Lap 3: Hamilton has taken one of the BMWs in the tunnel. Kubica has pitted – possible contact with a Toyota? Or even Hamilton?

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Lap 2: Brawns are starting to put away. Button has two and a half seconds on Raikkonen, just under a second on Barrichello, Kubica has cut a chicane but didn’t gain anything. Hamilton has taken another Toyota to go 18th – the reason he got past the first is because it started from the pit lane. Suddenly Barrichello’s the danger man with his extra lap of fuel, not Raikkonen. Brundle: “He’s suddenly thinking about the enemy within.

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Lap 1: Slow start for Kimi and Rubens has got him. Brawn GP 1-2 into the first corner. Hamilton has cleared a Toyota. And we’re away. That’s probably it for the rest of the race now. Alonso seems to have been on a bit of a trip, but is still on the track and pointing forward. A very sensible and careful start.

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On the grid:

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Pre-race: Brundle on Kimi: “I’m not entirely sure he talks at all these days.” Jacques Villeneuve refuses to deny that he’d like a 2010 drive and that he’s hanging about on the grid seeking one.

Brundle: “There’s an eight-metre distance between each car, based on the length of the average Formula One ego.” He grabs Jenson who says starting on pole gives him theoretically the easiest race – but he’s not expecting an easy ride from Kimi.

John Button says even he is surprised at the level of success and commitment his son is achieving.

Nigel Mansell, interviewed by the BBC, welcomes the idea of two successive British world champions – but arguably takes another little side-swipe at Lewis Hamilton, saying it came easy to some.

This is rather hilarious – The Telegraph seems to think that Ferrari and McLaren are duking it out for the 2009 championship. A little research is a valuable thing: http://tinyurl.com/ouwrtm

Wouldn’t you just know that England are having a fairly good crack at the West Indies in a one-day cricket international today? What with that and the Indy 500, decent sporting events are definitely like buses and always come along in packs.

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